Malolos court enters not guilty plea for Palparan

Dino Balabo - The Philippine Star

MALOLOS CITY , Philippines  – As the man they dubbed “The Butcher” arrived at the regional trial court (RTC) here yesterday, hundreds of chanting militant activists charged toward Jovito Palparan Jr.

Security escorts managed to whisk away the retired Army major general, who refused to enter a plea on charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention over the disappearance of two student activists in Bulacan in 2006.

Malolos RTC Branch 14 Judge Teodora Gonzales entered a not guilty plea on behalf of Palparan, who was saved from what seemed like a lynch mob by a composite team of National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents, police and military personnel.

The chanting continued and an activist tried to hit Palparan with a pole as he was led out of the courthouse through the back door and taken to the Bulacan provincial jail where he will be detained.

Palparan was arrested last Aug. 12 in Sta. Mesa, Manila by virtue of a warrant issued by the Malolos RTC for the alleged kidnapping and serious illegal detention of University of the Philippines students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, who disappeared in Hagonoy, Bulacan in 2006.

Palparan was commander of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division based in Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija when the abduction of the two students took place.

Agents of the NBI Anti-Organized Crime Division and the Armed Forces’ Naval Intelligence Group nabbed Palparan, who had been in hiding for three years.

Chief Superintendent Raul Petrasanta, Central Luzon police director, said intelligence personnel were deployed to monitor the situation in the area while members of the police Civil Disturbance Management were placed on standby to keep peace and order.

He said hundreds of activists from militant groups and at least 40 supporters of Palparan assembled outside the RTC building in Malolos.

Palparan’s group belonging to the Guardians, Bantay party-list, Wildcat Association and the AFP retirees association also held a vigil outside the court building.

Senior Superintendent Ferdinand Divina, acting director of the Bulacan police, said that Palparan narrowly escaped being lynched by the angry mob when his armed security escorts whisked him towards the provincial jail.

Minutes after his arraignment, Palparan was escorted out of the courtroom of the heavily guarded RTC building.

Security escorts and Palparan passed through the rear of the building on the way to the nearby provincial jail.

Seeing this, members of militant groups encamped in front of the building rushed to the gate of the provincial jail to block Palaparan.

The activists intercepted Palparan and the security escorts and one activist tried to hit Palparan with a pole.

The government agents with drawn handguns brought the retired military officer to the nearby jail.

Police and NBI agents immediately locked the gate of the jail, as members of militant groups continued chanting slogans against Palparan.

Military detention

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is in favor of a proposal to detain Palparan in a military facility due to alleged threats to his life.

Intelligence Service of the AFP (ISAFP) chief Maj. Gen. Eduardo Año said about five communist rebels are also detained at the Bulacan Provincial Jail, where Palparan is currently detained.

“There is an imminent threat posed by the CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army) on the life of Gen. Palparan. He deserves his day in court, hence his safety must be ensured,” Año said in a text message.

Año said they are also ready to accommodate Palparan if they are ordered by the court to do so.

“If ISAFP is tasked to take him into custody, our service is ready to secure him while he attends to his case in court,” he said.

As this developed, families of human rights victims issued an ultimatum to Palparan to tell the truth and disclose the whereabouts of the missing students Cadapan and Empeño.

Cadapan’s mother Erlinda and Empeño’s parents Asher and Concepcion led the activists and they expressed disappointment over Palparan’s refusal to enter a plea in court. – With Ric Sapnu

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